A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Weathering the inevitable Green storm.....

When poor Margaret Beckett, the UK Environment Secretary, has to admit today that Britain will not achieve New Labour's ill-judged three-manifesto target of a 20% cut in carbon dioxide emissions on 1990-levels by 2010, expect a cacophony of self-righteous Green bleating and a load of nauseating pious waffle from the metro media, the Cameroons, and the Mings: 'Minister to admit failure on key climate change emissions target' (The Guardian, March 28):
"The government will admit today that it will fail to meet its much repeated manifesto commitment on cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Labour had set a target of reducing CO2 levels by 20% by 2010, but Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, will say it is no longer possible. The totemic policy has been an important weapon in Tony Blair's claim to be a world leader willing to go further than others on climate change, and the admission is likely to provoke fury from environmentalists..." [Well, at least, that is some compensation]

[See also: 'UK to miss CO2 emissions target', BBC Online Science/Nature News, March 28]

Of course, we aren't going to meet these preposterous targets. Rising CO2-levels are partly a proxy measure of growth, and, thank goodness, we are still growing economically, if only slowly.

Here are the necessary UK carbon-dioxide factoids (just to annoy PT, who hates 'factoids'):

(a) New Labour's self-inflicted target: 20% cut on 1990-levels by 2010;
(b) Kyoto Protocol target: an average 12.5% cut on 1990-levels by 2010;
(c) In reality: under New Labour: since 1997, emissions have risen 1.9%;
(d) UK currently behind its Kyoto target by 5.6%.

How wise of Tony B. to be abroad. I'm sure, however, that he now appreciates fully the hard realities of climate-change politics and economics. After all, there are probably only two countries in the world anywhere near to hitting their Kyoto Protocol targets (never mind any other dafter targets). In the UK, we desperately need some brave politicians who will begin to stand up to the Green lobby on climate change and to call the 'global warming' bluff.

Let's be straight: the Green hairshirt just isn't going to happen, even in post-industrial, 'we-have-never-been-Modern', Blighty, never mind, of course, in the rest of the world, and the idea that we can manage climate change predictably by fiddling (or, as it will inevitably prove, failing to fiddle) at the margins with just one politically-selected factor must be the most dangerous piece of sophistry currently wafting around Millbank and through the corridors of power at Westminster.

As I have pointed out (wearily), over and over again: at 1.5% - 2.0% of world energy-use, what we do in the UK, from stupid windmills on Cameron's roof to nuclear power, will have no predictable effect at all on climate change. Indeed, I suspect it will have no measureable effect whatsoever! Period.

It's time to grow up over climate change, and to tell it as it is. It is such a pity that Tony B. has hoisted himself on this particular petard. Now, clean water for 1.1 billion people worldwide - that really would be something.

Philip, feeling genuinely sorry for Margaret Beckett. I like Mrs B., and she has unquestionably picked the iconic short straw on this one. Lunch - and Green pontificating on the news? "No way, mate; Radio 3's lunchtime concert for me. Better for the soul."

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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